Big Pilates

The rise of Big business has been quickly devouring our urban landscapes and rural terrains.

Its everywhere these days. Gone are the days of getting your coffee from someone who actually knows your name and doesn’t have to ask it just so they can write it on your cup. Pretty much every city in the US is being bombarded by chains. Consumers are being conditioned to follow familiar branding and corporations are cleaning up because of it. No surprise then that Big Business has now come to Pilates.

Corporations have caught on to what we as instructors have known all along- Pilates works and people will pay for those results. We are seeing the rise of gym Pilates programs/certifications as well as dedicated Pilates chains. I’m sure Joe would be happy that Pilates’ popularity is booming but how does this effect what’s nearest and dearest to our hearts- our own Pilates careers?

Throughout my 15+ year Pilates career I have worked in every teaching situation there is. Small studios, big studios, gyms, to opening a studio for myself. The challenges studio owners have grown accustomed to in our industry are being replaced. Where there were once three studios, you can now find ten. Baby instructors are being “born” in certifications every day. I can see the industry has evolved tremendously since I started. With the rise of competition comes the need to stand out in a crowded marketplace, as well as finding and keeping talented instructors in your studio. The private instructor now has almost too many options of where to hang their teaching hat. Work at the studio down the street, for the man, or for work yourself? How do you choose?

In my Pilates NYC studio we have disrupted the industry norms. At FORM we empower teachers to run their own business without the necessity of brick and mortar. While I get lots of teachers applying to become part of the Co-Op, most of my candidates are disgruntled workers from said Big Business chains. Not all teachers are born for the entrepreneurial life which requires much more than just what happens on the mat. What was tolerable for those newborn teachers has become a burden for the seasoned instructor. Teachers with a few years under their belt are now finding that corporate culture can get old, and fast. Not only must you adhere to company policies and procedures, you can work for years in a joint with nothing to show for it other than a line on your resume. As a result of years of resentment, indignant Pilates pros are opting for  “micro” one room studios for themselves and dedicated clientele. One room, with your type of equipment, decorated as you wish, just you and your clients. Sounds like heaven right? But is it?

While owning your own studio may be the Pilates American Dream, it’s just not profitable or recommended for most. Not only do you and your clients feel isolated from the world, instructors start to feel lonely and uninspired when teaching from their solo space. Working dollar for hour, your sessions and clients are your primary income, which could become problematic in time. What happens when you get sick or can’t make it in to teach? I’ll tell you what…NOTHING because you are the only one bringing home the bacon. Teachers who make the break from working for someone else are realizing the value of “owning” their own client list and being their own boss. However, with Pilates popularity booming, chances are you’ll have a hard time finding someone to sub your clients while you are away. That means no vacay and still rent to pay. When your space is tiny how do you leverage your off times? No one wants to rent a space solely during off peak ours. So what’s the solution? Time to pick a side.

I know it may sound like I’m bemoaning Pilates Big Biz, but it can have it’s place. Infusing cash into increasingly expensive brick and mortar operations, Corporate Pilates creates jobs and opportunities where there may not have been any before. Having health insurance and a 401 K are nothing to sneeze at. The key to finding your stride is to feel like you’re being validated and respected wherever you make people sweat. So, if you don’t want to work for the man and opening your own mini studio isn’t sustainable…what’s left?

The FORM Pilates Co-Op

FORM Pilates is where studio meets autonomy. As an instructor, I structured FORM as a place that is serious about Pilates. Fully equipped and manned with friendly and helpful staff, both you and your clients feel like they are getting the experience of a Big Business studio with your own personalization of style and Pilates philosophy. Instructors at FORM can charge what they want and take home 70% of clients fees, but most importantly they own their client list, and THAT is priceless. FORM also offers the business education you’ll need to get more clients, diversify your revenue streams, and do things your way.

Interested in becoming a member of our Co-Op?
Click here for a short application!

Teacher Focus Feature ~ Jamie Graham

Last night, Jamie and I sat sharing a cocktail and trying to determine how long we’ve actually known each other. Although we couldn’t decide on the exact number, we agreed that we’ve shared most of our time here in the Big Apple together, working in the Pilates industry. Jamie was once my boss, and now she’s working out of my space. Jamie is the perfect mix of ball-buster and cheerleader as a Pilates instructor. If only I could be so lucky as to spend the next 6, 7, or infinite years teaching next to this amazing woman! Here’s Jamie’s story…


Jamie first encountered Pilates when she was trying to get ahead in ballet school at Virginia School of the Arts. She remembers sweating it out on the reformer, under the eagle-eye of Gayla Zukovich, with her long finger nails poking her in the stomach demanding her abs pull in and up! Pilates was the perfect supplement to her dance training. It helped her better understand how her body worked and build strength and flexibility. When Jamie was doing a year of post-graduate study at CODARTS/Rotterdamse Dansacedmie she had the honor to study with master instructor, Marjorie Oron, and it was then that she decided to get certified and complete the certification program with Romana’s Pilates.

As a dedicated devotee, Jamie practices Pilates weekly and also studies Alexander technique with Jean McClelland and Klein technique with Barbara Mahler. Her favorite thing about the Pilates method is being able to help her clients experience the joy and benefits of movement within the safety of the Pilates work. She is especially good at getting her clients to work deeply while continuing to move and experience the flow of one exercise leading into the next.


When Jamie isn’t in the Pilates studio, you can find her in the dance studio. She’s part of a dance/comedy improv duo called The Raving Jaynes. The Jaynes, Amy Larimer and Ms. Graham, create shows based on audience suggestion using improvised dance and theater. For more info on where you can catch their show click here. Jamie also works with Jenny Rocha & her painted ladies, a dance company that fuses dance, theater, physical comedy, and burlesque. They shimmy and shake every Saturday at the Galapagos Art Space’s Floating Kabarette. Shameless plugs aside, Jamie can usually be found catching a show, tossing a frisbee at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, or sneaking off to the Hudson Valley for a little R&R.

Here’s four fun facts you may not know about Jamie:

  1. She grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, so she has a soft spot for anything country.
  2. She loves catching NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!
  3. She shares a birthday with her grandfather who just turned 100!
  4. National Parks are her favorite thing about the United States, but if a bee or spider approaches, she turns into a flailing yelping six year old!

For more info about Jamie click here and to schedule a session in our NYC with Ms. Graham email us studio [at] formpilates [dot] com

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Guest Post: Burning Out is Not an Option

The bright lights lured me here to make a name for myself. I wanted to make it big and what better place than New York City. I did what most people do when starting a new career; I went the safe route and joined a big health and fitness club.



While I enjoyed the comforts of working for a company, I have always had the desire to start my own business. With that dream I took the leap and I started my own personal training business. I left the comfort of the big brother and went out on my own. It was cool, it was exhilarating, and it was scary!

It was great at first, the money was piling in, I was my own boss, and I was making a name for myself.  The more money I made the more work I took on and before I knew it I was exhausted. Soon after I started I was completely burnt out. Trying to do so much was killing me, or to be less dramatic it was aging me. I started to look like a vampire with bags under my eyes. I had to fix this. How could I be helping people better their lives while neglecting my own? I was making people happy and healthy but I was looking and feeling like crap!

The solution was to take care of myself first so I can take care of others. What did I do? I didn’t have time to go to the Himalayas and hang with Buddhist monks, however, I made the time to sit quietly, plan, relax, breathe and have fun.

Here is my routine to success (or sanity) 

  • Start the day with YOU

Scarfing down breakfast while responding to emails and rushing out of the house is so unproductive. Instead, wake up a little earlier and give yourself time to jumpstart the day. During this time don’t allow emails, texts, social media, or any other distractions. This time is solely about you and your thoughts.

  • Write it out and give gratitude

While sipping my coffee I write down all my thoughts and worries. This might seem daunting but writing down your worries actually makes them seem more manageable. This process is a great form of release and most times it helps you come up with a solution. After I am done I write a short gratitude entry. This includes everything I am happy or grateful for. Seriously folks, this really changes your attitude. This is so therapeutic and has changed my life forever.  When you try this you will be forever grateful. (see what I did there?)

  • Plan, plan and plan again

Planning everything in a business is a must. After your morning notes take time to look at your schedule for the day. Fail to plan and plan to fail kind of thing. This will help resolve conflicts and organize your day. I do this with my personal life and business since they always overlap. I plan my free time. This might sound silly but if I have learned anything from being a workaholic it is that you have to PLAN TO HAVE FUN.

  • Take the day off

There will be days that your body or mind just needs a break. Listen to your body. You’re a business owner and you will always have work to do, its inevitable. Your task list isn’t going anywhere but there are times when you are running on empty and need to recharge. When I am feeling like I am getting run down I clear my day. I rather sleep and rest a day then be sick for an entire week. Take the time for yourself when you need it.

  • Practice what you preach

We like telling our clients to get their rest, stay hydrated, eat healthy, sleep 8 hours a night, and exercise regularly but it is astonishing how many health practitioners don’t take their own advice. My health and wellness is my priority and it should be yours. My energy and focus have been amazing since I make sure my meals are healthy, my sleep is adequate and I am moving and recovering daily. Practice what you preach.

  • Hard Stop—“Work Hours” 

This is something I have been culminating over the years. I have an end of the workday hard stop. Usually it’s at 7pm and sometimes 9pm if there is a particular time sensitive project I am working on. I stop, put my phone away and just unwind. I have employees, customers, friends, and colleagues that all know that I do not respond to emails or phone calls after 7 pm. Once you set those boundaries your quality of life will improve dramatically. Put your mobile device in the other room, turn off alerts, and unplug from the matrix. Spend time with a loved one, even if that loved one is you. If you respect your time so will everyone else.

These are some of the tools and practices that have given me sanity through the craziest of times. We are entrepreneurs, employers, leaders, and coaches. We need to take action in our own lives so we can lead by example. Learn to take care of your health and well-being so everything else can follow. Give yourself as much as you do to your business and clients.




Joe Barbagallo is the owner of Joe Barbagallo Fitness training systems; a New York City based coaching service that focuses on fat loss, performance, and strength. His clients include professional athletes, actors, models, and mixed martial artists. Joe also is the co-owner of the film production company Planet Nerd Rage Productions. He is currently in production working with his comic book idol Larry Hama of GI Joe shooting their latest film “Ghost Source Zero!”

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What Is A Cooperative?


Three years ago I took over a little Pilates studio in Union Square, called Union Square Pilates. I painted the walls, changed the name, and hung some art, and voila- FORM Pilates Union Square was born. I had absolutely no idea how things would evolve, butI wasn’t worried. I knew what I didn’t want- a factory like studio pumping out clients and controlling  what other teachers taught. I was clear on what I DID want- a studio to bring my clients to that was clean, happy, had a wonderful vibe, as well as a place where the Pilates community could come together instead of pushing each other apart.  So like one of my favorite quotes, “I dream because there is no other way I can see it happen” I dreamed big and boom- I saw it happen.


I first heard of the concept of a cooperative in the context of the grocery store, the Park Slope Coop. Members agree to work once every month in exchange for discounts on healthy fare. Very cool I thought and that planted a seed. Then through a woman’s networking group I heard about a shared workspace in the city called In Good Company. It was a place female entrepreneurs come to work, meet, and learn. Cut to two years into my owning FORM USQ and it kind of sounded like what I was inadvertently doing- renting out my space so other instructors could build and incubate their businesses under mine. I wanted a place we could be a community, so like they say, “your dream job does not exist you must create it”, and I did.


The true definition of a cooperative is an autonomous group of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit. People have been cooperating since the beginning of time. Tribes were organized as cooperative structures, allocating jobs and resources among each other. Bottom line is that cooperatives are a good thing, but why weren’t there any for Pilates instructors? Why were we being left out?


The daunting costs of NYC commercial rent, equipment prices, and the shear need for space to house a proper studio keeps wannabe Pilates soloprenuers from branching out on their own. In a sprawling metropolis like New York my colleagues needed a place to bring their clients and work out of. Notoriously divided, Pilates people can be snotty and pretentious. They can be afraid of sharing and living in a world of lack instead of embracing abundance. I refused to believe that’s all there is. What if you could come as you are, with the type of clients that “get” your style, and build a thriving business without going into a mountain of debt. No reason why not so, after months of building our new structure with my team, the FORM Pilates Cooperative was born.


At FORM you can join our cooperative at one of two levels. As a Drop-In member who sees less than 10 clients a week but is looking to build, or as a Subscriber who already has a full practice, 15+ clients a week, but wants to maximize their time, profit, and diversify their revenue streams. As their fearless leader, I offer office hours, group coaching, and one-on-one consultations to help supplement the practical training we received in our certifications with business savvy. As a fully functioning Pilates studio, we also receive inquiries from potential clients and match them with their ideal Pilates instructor. The client can continue to shop around and work with several cooperative members or if it’s a match made in heaven, the teacher can take on the client as their own. This approach makes for both happy clients AND teachers.


We are excited to be the first Pilates Cooperative in NYC!

Want more info on how our cooperative works or an application to join our team? Email us studio [at] formpilates [dot] com today!


My 5 picks for Thanksgiving Dining in NYC

turkey-city_450We’re New Yorkers. We can order anything from Lebanese to lasagna at 2am and have it delivered right to our door. While we know culinary brilliance when we taste it, our stove hasn’t been ignited since that night we tried to heat the apartment by turing the oven on. Let’s face it, we could cook but it’s SO much easier just to eat out. Thanksgiving is no exception.

During my seven years in the Big Apple, I haven’t traveled home for the holidays once. Since all my kin live on the west coast, I find it much easier just to make a reservation instead of making a turkey. Here are my picks for those of you who find yourself in NYC this Thanksgiving and feel the same….

Jane has been my go-to destination for my holiday feast for 4 years now. A casual American bistro smack dab between SoHo and Greenwich Village, it’s classic NYC fare. The space is comforting and warm (kinda like Grandma’s kitchen, only chicer) and the menu has all the components you’d want on your plate. T-day menu consists of a prix fix, three course with various options. You can’t go wrong with turkey and the trimmings but you could go with short ribs, risotto, or salmon if the bird isn’t your thang.

One of my all-time foodie favs is definitely Freeman’s. Located at the back of an alley, its charm doesn’t stop just at the decor. The food and design is rugged, rustic, and has a certain old world charm. Their holiday menu consists of turkey and the usual suspects, as well as their signature (almost better-than-sex) artichoke dip. Believe me the dip alone is worth the trek to the LES. Oh, and did I mention they have pie? Homemade pie.

A little pricier than the two above, Maialino is one of the FINEST NYC restaurants you can pay a visit. Their Thanksgiving bill of fare has an Italian flare since it’s what they do best. Start with the zuppa di castagne (or chestnut soup), then get your roasted bird with Polenta instead of stuffing, and finish with their expertly executed Zabaione or Italian custard. They also have a special menu just for the wee ones that doesn’t require they sit at the “kids” table.

Red Rooster
I included Red Rooster simply because I’ve heard such amazing things about this uptown gem. You’re pretty much gonna get a typical Thanksgiving dinner here but chef Marcus Samuel is bound to throw in a couple culinary surprises here and there. They also have live jazz so prepare to be serenaded by some of the good stuff in the heart of Harlem.

Il Buco
I used to teach a couple in their home (with equipment and all) right across the cobblestoned street from Il Buco. Finally, I had salivated long enough and one day decided to visit their feast of the pig. OMG! THE BEST suckling pig I’ve ever had. Thanksgiving dinner here has your choice of that or traditional turkey. Part Italian, part Spanish, all delicious. A holiday feast here will change your life.

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Is Your Apartment A Postage Stamp? My Plan To Make The Most Of Your Space

Felice Cohen, 39, in her micro apartment

Oh how we love NYC let us count the ways….that is except the tiny apartment space! Does your closet consist of an armoire and shoe tree? Can you sit on the couch to watch TV, make dinner, and brush your teeth all without getting up? We’re not going to give up living in one of the most amazing cities in the world just because of this tiny (pun intended) inconvenience. Want to know how to make the most of your space? Read on…


  • Make like an editor. Editors have to make tough decisions and cut words, articles, and even whole campaigns. Constantly purge paperwork, clothing, electronics, and stuff often. Do you really need a printer when you have one at the office? One rule of thumb on bringing new stuff in is one in and (gasp!) TWO out! What was once clutter can quickly become an episode of hoarders in a peanut sized apartment. The less you have, the more sane you will feel.
  • Pick furniture that does double duty. An ottoman that doubles has storage inside. Create storage space under your bed, then cover it with a bed skirt. Place extra shelving high up above door jams and in the “attic” of your closets. Storage space is king when you have none.
  • Ditch your doors. Doors that open into your tiny space can be problematic. Replace closet doors with curtains, the bathroom door with a pocket sliding door. The less room for the door the more room for you

Copy, Cat, Chic and >Apartment Therapy are a couple of my fav design resources. Check them out to get the most out of your shoe box sized domicile. You can thank me later…


Do you live in a small space? We’d love to hear about it! Leave your comments, pics, and even videos of your space and how you make it work…

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3 Fall Hangouts You Shouldn’t Miss

Two is always better than one. Such is the case with exploring NYC. Here’s my pick for three things you can do with your bestie here in the big apple:

1- Go High and Go Low

New York is always on the cutting edge of making the most out of what we got, like the High Line, the above ground park built on an elevated historic freight rail line. So, it’s no wonder that we would go below to have the Low Line too. The master plan of local lower east side architects and engineers to bring green space to an area lacking in both space and foliage. Nestled in the former Williamsburg trolley terminal, untouched for decades, these innovators have designed a remote skylight to deliver sunlight from the surface and actually provide enough natural light to allow plant life to flourish. Although it is in its early stages they are offering a glimpse into the potential of the future park. Visit the exhibition anytime between September 15-27 for its inaugural “day” fair with pop-ups from some of the LES’s best tasting goodies.

2- Go cheap

Our fair city is a museum mecca and Saturday September 29th, the Smithsonian is sponsoring Museum Day. It’s free, yes that’s FREE, to visit one of 28 museums. My pick is the little known Museum of Arts and Design. MAD (as they lovingly call themselves) is nestled kitty corner from the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle. Take a free (yup, there’s that word again) docent tour of the museum while inside and when you’ve taken in all your eyes can muster, wander upstairs to one of the area’s greatest kept secrets, Robert. Robert is a sexy little gem with one of the best views of Central park. Go for brunch, lunch, dinner, or late night snack but make sure to splurge on one of their specialty libations. You might even see a famous ballerina from Lincoln Center sipping one right in the booth next to you….

3- Go eat

New Yorkers know how to eat, and we celebrate the fact that we have some of THE best food in the world with the annual NYC Food and Wine Festival. October 17th-20th, it is a long weekend of cuisine infused activities that range anywhere from $20-$400. You can taste, listen, and party with some of the industries hottest chefs like Racheal Ray, Anita Lo, and Giada De Laurentiis. Stuff your face at one of the Grand Tastings and maybe bad boy Anthony Bourdain will be there to sign your t-shirt, eh I mean book.

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5 Minute Pilates

If you have 5 minutes a day, you can do some life changing Pilates! Sure, a full hour workout 3 times a week is ideal, but Joe’s work is so powerful even 5, 10, or 15 minutes a day can make a difference! Mr. Pilates himself said “ Make up your mind that you will perform your Contrology exercises without fail. Amazingly enough you will subconsciously lengthen your trips from ten to twenty or more minutes before you even realize it!”

Here are some basic exercises that you can do if you’re like me and only ever seem to have minutes in your day:


The Hundred: This is the quintessential Pilates exercise. It’s a great warm-up. Gets the blood pumping, the breath moving, and puts you right in your powerhouse.

Start lying on your back. Bend your knees into your chest. Curl your upper body off the mat. Stretch your legs out 45 degrees and begin pumping your straight arms up and down. Inhale for 5 counts, exhale for 5 counts. 10 sets of this make 100. Keep your eyes focused on your abdominals pulling your powerhouse in and up the whole time.

The Roll-up: Pilates is all about stretch and strength. This exercise is the perfect marriage of the two. Always remember to keep pulling your abdominals in strongly even when you go for the stretch. Balance is key here.

After your hundred, extend your legs along the mat. Squeeze your legs together and dig your heels into the mat. Stretch your arms above your shoulders. Curl your chin to your chest and roll all the way up, reaching to your toes. Pull your powerhouse in and roll all the way back into the mat, articulating one vertebrae at a time. Do at least 5 reps.

While 5 minutes is definitely better than nothing it’s not a replacement for a full workout! Make sure to get in a full 55 minutes at least once a week. And, while mat work is a perfect practice for what you do in the studio- it’s not mat Pilates or machine Pilates. You need to get your butt on the equipment to get the full results. We can help. Get the full experience of the method at our boutique studio in NYC. Click here for details!

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The Egg Cream Incident


Today, I had my first real egg cream. The egg cream, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is a New York institution. An egg cream from Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop on 5th is as authentic as it gets. There is nothing like living and eating in New York City. Being from sunny California, I’ve never experienced a city with more history in every block, more life on every street corner. The energy here can either invigorate or flatten you, but living here is never boring. A typical day can start out with a plan. Go here, do this, and suddenly you just might find yourself having your first egg cream at a historical New York joint. Dave, one of the owners of Eisenberg’s, picked up on my California scent right away. “This is your first time here isn’t it?” Busted. Did I look so confused and out of place?

Egg Cream at Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop, New York, NYBecoming a New Yorker takes practice and I’d been here almost 3 years now. I’d learned to navigate the subways, found the perfect comfortable shoes for all weather situations, even yelled at someone on the street. I was surely no virgin. But there’s no fooling a master. While I nervously looked on, wondering if I should remind him I wanted a chocolate egg cream not a vanilla, Dave juggled orders, called customers by name, and concocted egg creams all in a New York manner. Lightening speed, unfettered, and with a look of slightly disinterested ease, all from years of practice.

Similarly, I remember the first time I had a Pilates session with my mentor. I was already professional dancer and had been practicing “Pilates” for at least 2 years, I was by no means a virgin, but again, there is no fooling a master. Shari hails form New York, and possesses all the characteristics of a good New Yorker. She is waay honest and sometimes painfully blunt. She’s quick witted with razor sharp intuition. She sussed out my inexperience from the get-go. After an hour of sweating and flailing like a fish out of water, I became fully aware I had a lot to learn.

Although Pilates is a complicated life-long practice, I realized I was ok where I was at….because that’s where I’m at. Shari taught me Pilates is in the details, it’s a technique. Good Pilates technique requires hard work. There’s no avoiding that, but when do we start accepting who we are and where we’re at in this very moment? “Progress not perfection”, I am always telling my clients. I have to learn to listen to my own advice. Learning new things, adapting to new places takes time. Instead of rushing towards our destination we can take our time and enjoy the journey. Yeah right. No seriously, I am proud of my California roots and where I’ve come from makes me who I am today. How do we think masters became masters anyway? Practice my dear, lots of practice.

Shari and I

Shari and I

I’m sure Dave trashed a bunch of egg creams before creating his masterpiece. And I know Shari crashed and burned a teaser or two on her way to becoming my mentor. Mr. Pilates himself was aware of this as well and often said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. He expected his clients to mearly show up as themselves, work hard, and let his work happen.

At my intimate Pilates studio FORM Pilates in NYC, we teach all levels the joy of Pilates. We love Pilates virgins!!! First timers can get a taste of Joe’s method with our New Client Special. Get more info on how FORM works here!

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